(…its known order of things seems to be falling apart)

Long ago, as a mush-brained freshman at Georgetown University, one of our favorite courses was something called – The History of Civilization – . While firmly in line with the broad perspectives of the subject exemplified by the encyclopedic works of Dr. Will Durant, what made it so appealing was the way the professor who gave the course presented the subject.

To say his approach was unconventional would be to put it mildly. The style of his lectures and presentations about it were a wild mix of a stand-up comedy act and the manic sermonizing of a revivalist preacher. As a result his classes were almost SRO every time, and we students avidly gorged and feasted on it all like so many greedy pups at mealtime.

Despite its entertainment value, however, his lectures and presentations encouraged us all to explore and consider the subject in greater depth than we might have otherwise done so. In our case some of the key points he made about the subject led us to consider an odd-ball perspective about it. That is, that there appeared to be a cyclic process involved with the causative factors giving rise to civilizations, and to their decline as well. Those speculations then ultimately brought us to the premise that such a process was akin to the atomic ones of –fusion- and – fission-.

Later we used that premise for one of our term papers on the subject and, much to our surprise, received not only a high grade for it (upgrading our otherwise undistinguished grade point average), but also a rare compliment from the professor for out-of-the-box thinking on the subject, which he later also used during one of his discussion sessions with us. It made for some very lively pro-con arguments, but it’s a concept that’s remained in our mind about the subject ever since because the course of events since that time seem to support it, which brings us to our situation today.

That is, our world looks like it is now transitioning from its previous cycle of ‘fusion” into a new cycle of “fission”, which may explain why the known order of things for the past seventy odd years seems to be falling apart.

That previous cycle of “fusion” began in the aftermath of WWII, when the surviving nations of that devastation realized that despite their differences it was time to forge together something that would inhibit, if not prevent, a similar catastrophic event in the future. So to that end they began to create international structures to do so.

One of the first of these was the BRETON WOODS economic agreements, by which all national currencies were to be measured against a common yardstick. At that time, however, the only economy left standing after WWII was America’s, and the only currency having any value for that purpose was the US Dollar (keeping in mind that Europe, Russia, North Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia, were all more or less in ruins). That was followed by the creation of the UNITED NATIONS. Other circumstances followed which further increased that impetus for “fusion”…leading to the creation of NATO for a collective military capacity. That was soon followed by the Franco-German accords which laid the foundation for the ultimate creation of what became the EUROPEAN UNION. Similar “fusion” processes occurred in Asia, with the creation of SEATO and ASEAN, while here in the Western Hemisphere, the old Pan-American Union was re-made into the Organization of American States (OAS), followed much later by NAFTA and CAFTA.

The main factor driving all this “fusion” into such collective associations was the Soviet Russian expansionist efforts to maintain and secure what it had gained from WWII, thus its counterpart process of “fusion” with the WARSAW PACT for Eastern Europe and the Balkans. There was also the concurrent and collateral consolidation and hegemonic expansion of Communist China with similar “fusing” arrangements with North Korea and North Vietnam.

Ultimately that cyclic process of “fusion” ended up with a bi-polar world of…the Western non-Communist collectives…counterbalanced by the Eastern Communist collectives… which settled into what became known as the Cold War era. Yet, for all of that, the end result was a form of stasis, or balance, between two forms of civilizations, remaining more or less in place for nearly seventy odd years.

But inherent flaws and fissures in both eventually upset that balance. In the West, the end of Colonialism turned loose a host of newly independent national entities, all vying for attention and a place in the established international order, without having either the economic or political infrastructures to support them. In the East, internal stresses and strains from too restrictive authoritarian rule ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet system in Russia, and the marginal loosening of centralized power in China. Here also, as in the West, many of those components making up their respective collectives became another mass of independent entities vying for their place in the world’s international order, and also without the economic or political infrastructures to support these.

Thus began a brief and rather violent period of “fission” during the latter part of the 20th Century. Nevertheless a new impetus for “fusion” quickly began to set in to move into the chaotic economic and political vacuums that episode of “fission” had created.

The genesis of this new cycle of “fusion” began with the rise and economic dominance of multinational enterprises having no “nationalist” identities or loyalties other than profit. In some ways these could be characterized as being latter-day privateers and buccaneers, taking advantage of such chaotic conditions.

Hard on their heels then came the rapid development of new technologies leading to the digital matrix of today, and in that process, creating what can only be described as the new civilization which we now call – Globalization -, wherein for the first time in human history a more or less common level of “civilization” covers the entire planet. And the proof of that can be found no matter where one travels to today. Whether one travels to New York, Paris, London, Rome, Moscow, Delhi, Cape Town, Abu Dahbi, Dubai, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Rio, Mexico City, or almost any other urban point in this world today, one finds the same almost identical urban infrastructures, displaying nearly the same identical urban characteristics, and all more or less using a common form of the English language as this new “civilization’s” lingua franca (regardless of local language and culture).

The apparent start of a new cycle of “fission” however seems to be a reaction against that global commonality, ignited first with what came to be called…THE ARAB SPRING… followed right behind it with the SYRIAN CIVIL WAR, the rise of DAESH/ISIS, along with a host of separatist movements elsewhere, such as SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE, BREXIT, anti-EU impulses, and our own internal disunities as exemplified by AMERICA FIRST…and the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016.

Thus those of us alive today are witness to and living through the impacts these cycles of –fusion- and –fission- have had and are having upon the economic, the political, and even the cultural and social matrixes we’re so familiar with; and because of that, that’s why so many of us have those doomsday anxieties so prevalent today.   

Well, that’s as the world turns, as they say, so the only advice and solace we might give for all of that is…suck it up…tomorrow…is another day.